The holidays are like a bottle of vodka. The further into it we go, the more of our truth we show.
I’ve never been much of a fan of drunken stupors personally but I do sometimes enjoy the little nuggets of truth that slip out when people are trapped in there. Alcohol is like a magnifying glass, showing with great exaggeration, all of the tiny little things that normally people keep tucked away. If you are a well-behaved-while-sober racist, intoxication is the perfect stage for your ignorant jokes. It works the same for haters of all kinds, by the way. Consider yourselves warned.
Also, if someone isn’t so in to their partner/spouse, they are far more likely to select a replacement while intoxicated. Of course, all of the fun of truth telling breaks down when these same say stupid things like, “It wasn’t me. I was drunk. You know that I would never cheat on you!”
Um, correction. The drunk you is still you. And yes, wise one, you cheated.
The holidays seem to have a similar effect on people. Stressed out, strung out, hysterical-because-you’ve-over-committed you… is still you.
I’ve noticed that people who say yes beyond their natural capacity (time, energy, money, brain power, etc.) throughout the year often become over-committed on steroids during the holidays. It might be that there’s just so much more to say yes to, or it may be that all of the holiday invitation/requests/asks are more glittery and jolly, and are therefore harder to resist this time of the year.
Perhaps it’s the whole Jesus’ birthday thing that has people more apt to give and give and give.The problem, sadly, is that we give and give of ourselves until there is nothing left. And I’m not talking about the exhausted-because-it’s-the-end-of-the-day-and-now-I-need-to-go-to-bed version of nothing left. This is bigger. This is giving into a deficit. This is a hole where real life is supposed to be. This is where we do for others so much that we don’t have the resources to tend the gardens of our own lives.
You know the people who cook and bake and gift everyone oodles of love and nourishment but go to bed with nothing but cookie dough in their stomachs because they don’t have enough energy left to prepare themselves a proper meal. We all know people who purchase, wrap, and give mounds of gifts each holiday season but who, come January, doesn’t have enough money to pay their bills. Perhaps it’s you who gives and helps, hosts and donates, goes and does, all the while neglecting yourself you are sick and tired.
Some of us give until we get the kind of sick and tired that we can’t shake off. We give more than we have to give over and over, until we fall apart.
Falling apart may mean blowing up on the people you love the most–your partner or children or dearest friends or colleagues. Sometimes we become unwell physically, or even mentally with depression or anxiety, or injured in accidents that may have been avoided had we been more rested or calm, and therefore more careful.
It means showing a side of yourself, much like the intoxicated fool, that you prefer to keep under wraps. It’s the side who comes up short when we give more than we have to offer, the self. If we’re tending everyone else, who is going to tend us?
I see this a great deal with women but also sometimes with men. I can recognize it, of course, because trying to prove that I am good enough or lovable or helpful or whatever else we strive to prove by doing too much… is a play right out of my old playbook. It’s the codependency again. (You can find many, many stories about how the codependency creeps in here). I have a dream, a dream of a Codependency-Free Holiday Season. We might call it Christmas Without the Crazy, and I’ve begun compiling some very simple rules that will support sanity and reason during this intense time.
Rule One: Protect yourself from mean people.
Rule Two: Ask for what you need.
The third rule is about the giving of ‘yes’, the thing always comes just before doing too much. It may be outer world that asks of us, “Will you…?” or, “Can you…?” or, “Won’t you, please…?” or, “Who will…?” or, “Doesn’t somebody need to…?”.
Sometimes, they don’t even ask. Some people just tell us, “You need to…” or, “I think you should…” or, “You bring (or do or make or buy or whatever).” We mustn’t accept the unfounded assumptions of others as without first checking in to see if we have that to give. If what someone is telling you to do won’t work for you, considering saying, “That isn’t going to work for me.” If there is something that would work for you, offer that instead.
And perhaps even more maddeningly, the requests and demands sometimes come from within. There my be a voice in your head that whispers, or sometimes yells, “I need to…” or, “I must…” or, “What will they say if I don’t… ?” or “We’ve always done…” or , “It have to…” or, “If I don’t do it then…” or, “I should…”.
Both the external and internal dialogues can easily go unchecked. We are accustomed, trained I dare say, to say yes. We say yes without taking even a moment to consider if this is what we truly want to do, if we have it to give, or this is true for us to take on the commitment in question. We become overwhelmed and either let others down, or deliver on every promise and slowly destroy ourselves. Neither of those outcomes really sound like winning to me.
This madness has to stop.
And in the spirit of stopping the madness, I offer you this:
Rule Three: Give from a place of love (a never a wound).
A few month ago, an extraordinary woman* shared with me one of the most freeing questions I’ve ever been gifted. Are you giving from a wound or from love? It hit me like a ton of bricks. This question invited me to go far deeper than the important question I’d long ago learned to pause and ask: Do I have the resources (time, money, energy, skills, passion, etc.) to commit this? While powerful, that question still sometimes came up short, resulting in commitments that didn’t actually serve me well. For example, one time I had this marriage proposal…
Am I giving from a wound or from love? Asking this question invites me into a world of deeper exploration. Am I doing this because it’s expected of me, or because I’ve done it in the past, or because I want to be accepted or loved? Am I trying to buy security with this yes, and if so, is my yes really going to result in the security I long for? Am I afraid of what I might lose if I don’t say yes? Am I tempted to say yes because of guilt or shame, or because I’m afraid of disappointing others?
Today, saying yes is a sacred act for me. It’s a commitment to give of myself, and whether it’s as simple as saying yes when a neighbor asks for support with childcare or something much more complex, like accepting a marriage proposal, I intend to say make commitments from a healthy, whole, fulfilled, content place of choice.
I want to say yes because this thing is for me, which means I can do it without neglecting the other gardens of my life… and I want to. I can do it without feeling regret, remorse, and resentment. I can do it without having all of those “shoulds” floating around in my head. I won’t have to live with my own needs unmet, my spirit un-nurtured, my heart neglected. I won’t feel so pressured, overwhelmed, and over-committed that a little intensity causes me to blow up all over the people I love.
Why do you keep saying yes?
* The aforementioned awesome woman is Alisa Blanchard and Ann Sousa is the awesome woman who gave this question to her, so she could give it to me. I love that woman to woman chain of goodness, don’t you?